AN ADVENTURE IN BEAUTY

“When you regain a sense of your life as a journey of discovery, you return to rhythm with yourself. When you take the time to travel with reverence, a richer life unfolds before you. Moments of beauty begin to braid your days. When your mind becomes more acquainted with reverence, the light, grace and elegance of beauty find you more frequently. When the destination becomes gracious, the journey becomes an adventure of beauty”. John O’Donoghue
Excerpt from his books, Beauty.

A very simple walk but nevertheless full of little beauties that lift the heart. A view on to the pastoral landscape beyond the hedgerow and seen through the presently opening hawthorn bush.
One of the impressive treasures on this walk is the stone wall, Ireland has a great reputation for building beautiful stone walls and this is a good example. Seeing that I am trying to learn a lot about and become really familiar with the rocks and geology of the area, I took a keen interest in all this rock.

And so this walk, while very easy and on flat ground was a delight, it took me 50 minutes from where I had parked my car on the other side of town to when I returned, and by that time my head was cleared, and I felt happy with my small discoveries. Along this road I also came across many other wild flowers, and another garden escape was the tree mallow which I did not quite expect to grow here but had seen very many growing in Gozo. Further along this road there is a large area of wild garlic plants growing, I saw them there last year. It is amazing what is found along the roadside and hedgerow, for example, if this road is followed for quite a few miles there are large patches of wild roses, some dark red and beautiful, I used to take this road to work (it eventually leads to Bantry where I worked in the library) during June/July when these roses would be in bloom, it sure was lovely. I had three or four different roads that I could take to work and used to vary them according to what plants were in flower as every road had some difference in habitat and hence in plant growth.

I’m calling this walk the stone wall walk, my sister Josefine who is coming to Ireland in the summer will be walking with me, I sure look forward to this, even when I am normally a solitary walker.

TENDER SEEDLINGS AND ROBUST SHOOTS

After a full two weeks of sunshine and mild weather, we are now experiencing some crazy April showers! Heavy rain is drenching our valley and wind is tearing at the blossoms of our trees.  For now the frosty nights we had lately are definitely over.  Inside, however, there is plenty of activity and the conservatory cum dining room, half of the kitchen, and part of my bedroom are all taken up by tender young seedlings or robust shoots.  Pots are everywhere but it is a delight to see.  Ian too is sleeping between all this young growth.

I have learnt an important lesson this spring, to date I have always bought my plants at the market stalls and put them straight into the garden, except last spring when I sowed French beans, spinach, and radish as part of an experiment and course with GROWTH.

This January, however, every time I went shopping I came home with at least one packet of seeds or bulbs and doing this cheered me up no end.  Come the beginning of March I could contain myself no longer and started sowing, indoors obviously.  And this was a mistake….some seeds came up after a week or more but did not thrive, most came to nothing.  A few days ago I did another larger sowing and the seed came up almost overnight and so far they are thriving!  Lesson learnt!  Do not sow before April in West Cork!

So far the slugs seem to be still asleep, I find them underneath pots and planks in the garden, unmovable.  Inside is quite another matter….they are travelling leaving silvery trails in their wake over pots, carpet and table, but so far very little damage has been done to plants.

I did plant some old English marigolds outside and I put empty water bottles over them as protection and they are doing fine.   The irises will have to be planted out soon as the shoots are coming on strong, as are the dahlias and begonias.  I’m so looking forward to my first time growing agapanthus.  Furthermore I’ve lots of different rudbekias coming on, I used to grow these and love them, also the time of year when they flower.  Seedlings growing at this moment are petunias, red poppies, ixia, cosmos, zinnia, freesias, eliopsis scabra, and phlox, they are all new plants to me.  Irises I used to grow when I was a teenager, they were blue.

I’ve also sowed marrows, cucumber, basilica, African marigolds, spring onions, chives, lots of heirloom fragrant sweet peas, and the wild bee flower seeds which I bought because they were recommended to help the declining bee population, the sunflowers and the cornflowers.

The local (Brown Envelope) seeds of the garden peas are also coming up beautifully.  There is a lot to be said for sowing locally sourced seeds – plants resulting from them will be more tolerant of local climate.  There remains to be sown my own seeds which I saved from last year’s harvest and these are;   Thistle, catnip, evening primrose, oregano, basil mint, and purple loosestrife, some of these seeds have already self-sown outside. 

The wealth and abundance of nature is a wonderful thing to behold, something to be very grateful for, day by beautiful day.

If, my dear friends, you have continued to read to the end of my notes this time, I congratulate and thank you.  Have a nice day.

Every bit of space where there is sufficient light is taken up by seedlings
Dinner is served on a tray for today!

A SENSE OF PLACE

My walking routine is so much more than an exercise regime ordered by my doctor. It is one of many things. It is an hankering after times past – times we spent in Gozo where it felt so good to walk everywhere and everyday, taking in the delightful scents and stunning sights of a Mediterranean land- or townscape. So my current walks here are a looking back in a sense, and a remembering of very positive energy which in itself is energising my today.

But it is more than that; it is a grounding of myself in this Irish West Cork landscape. For years I had felt restless here, discontented even, I wanted to travel and I did not feel as if I even belonged here, this landscape, this town and people – however beautiful and friendly, had totally lost its appeal for me and I often felt a stranger. And this despite there being a thriving Art Centre here and my contentedness about all my travels to India.

So when we returned from Gozo in spring 2018 I decided to do something about this, I could not continue the way I was. I started to look at this place with fresh eyes. Discovering new aspects of this town and area, nature and vernacular architecture, people, and I studied the map carefully to know all the hills, the rivers and the surrounding area, keeping in mind the four cardinal directions to orientate me precisely. And I walk, I walk everywhere and my body is feeling so grateful, I feel fitter for it in my every movement. My mind smiles and I’m constantly making plans to explore even more places in the vicinity, little walks and big walks. I have plans to visit and explore surrounding villages too, just as I did in Gozo.

And all this is giving me a sense of belonging and of feeling good in this space on earth, many is the time when I have felt very isolated here in West Cork, cut off from the rest of Europe and the world. I did not like this feeling and then I would hanker to go back, to return to Belgium, even after all these years. But I know that I am here to stay, and so I need to ground myself as much as I can, and I think that I now have found the way to do this – finally – after many years I am beginning to find a sense of place, a sense of belonging.

Yesterday’s walk was not long, it was in open space on the ring road around the town. It opens up views of the town and the hills behind it and shows the river Ilen upstream going off to its source, and downstream flowing into the town. These are good views. And while a constant flow of traffic does not make this walk particularly peaceful, it is nevertheless a walk I love. Many spring blossoms grace the shrubs and many wild flowers grow along the edge of the roadside. Fine stone walls have been built along some of this road, in local rock, shale, in slate-blue colour, with the odd bit of striking white quartz here and there, beautiful.

As I look towards the town centre, my eyes casting over a wide area of marshy ground, I notice works are still ongoing, the building of flood protecting walls. Skibbereen was built on marshland which makes the town prone to flooding. The town centre lies in a long valley, open to the West and North, and protected from the Atlantic Ocean by hills to the South and South-east.

I do believe that in every place on this wonderful earth of ours there are many interesting and exciting things to discover. Finding out about the place we live does give us a sense of belonging.

I would love to hear about your experiences and feelings about your sense of place or your sense of belonging. I would find it to be most interesting.

Along the river Ilen as it enters the town of Skibbereen
Ribes sanguineum in flower along the river Ilen
Looking downriver as the Ilen enters the town of Skibbereen
Looking upriver

WALKING THE CUTTING

Mural of the old steam train leaving the street behind in order to drive through The Cutting.

Skibbereen town has something preserved from the past that is quite interesting and has always appealed to many. This market town of old used to have a station, and a train line to Baltimore, a small seaside village, and to Cork city. It also had a narrow gauge line to Schull which is another small seaside village in the area. In the sixties the trains lost their use to bus routes and that was a great pity. And so we are left with some relics from this glorious train travel era. And one such a relic is what people here call ‘The Cutting’, and it is around this that I mapped my second walk. It was not a long walk, just 45 minutes and about 4000 steps. It was a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon when I stepped out, I had the sun behind me as I walked along the Baltimore road. Passing many mature and beautiful gardens I then turned right and looked straight at a cottage that must have been associated with the railway I think, that’s what it looked like, maybe there was a level-crossing there. The road turns right again and passes lovely trees, birds were singing high in the branches, bluebells were in bloom even though it was only the end of March! Primroses, buttercups, wild strawberries, and long stemmed daisies were to be seen here and there. The other side of the road was mainly walls, some plastered but others lovely local stone and probably quite old behind which I could see some beautiful trees. I also saw one interesting ancient gate, I love those and always imagine what story they could tell us.

Road signs here in Ireland are in both English and Irish.
I hope whoever lives there won’t mind me using my photo of their lovely place.
It’s early yet for buttercups to flower, yet due to the very mild winter no doubt everything is early this spring.
In someone’s garden…..silhouette of yet another amazing tree, is it alive or dead, too early in the year to see.

And then after passing the sign for Swanton’s Garden Centre, all of a sudden there it lies before you, The Cutting! A road sliced through the rocks, stark high rock walls covered in mosses, ivy, wild plants and even trees, everything seems to be growing out of these rock walls, rainwater drips down here and there, I walk on in the shadow and find it refreshingly chillier. Towards the end of the Cutting, the town’s houses come into sight, here we are at the Bridge street end of the town. Just a little while further there is the iron railway bridge – part of the now West Cork Hotel, and still further along there is the old station on the Marsh road. But before coming to this I found this most beautiful mural of the old steam train on the wall of a disused pub. I then walked back to where I left the car at Drinagh car park. I enjoyed this walk very much, it’s very easy and not long. Footpaths all the way.

Different types of mosses are plentiful on these rocks.

From where we live I can see the hill that overlooks this walk, it is to the West of the town and its a long gentle hill. One of my future walks will be over this hill, the views are great from there, but that’s a story for another day.

SHORT WALKS

Gorse growing in the West Cork landscape along the road leading from the town of Skibbereen towards the coastal villages of Castletownsend or Unionhall. I walked only as far as Russagh Mill Hostel which lies about 2 km from the town. The walk is a pleasant one even though it is along a busy enough road, there is a footpath most of the way which makes it quite safe.
I found that along the road there was quite a bit of wetland, and also a small stream, ducks flew up when I approached. Though my reason for taking the walk was to become fitter, I enjoyed finding so many wild plants and spring flowers by the roadside, among them were two types of wild geraniums.

To my right was Lick Hill, a long hill which is so familiar to me as I can see it from the upstairs window where I live. Its bedrock is made up of purple mudstone and siltstone, behind it and to the South lies the sea, the wild Atlantic Sea. A little more towards the S.West lies the famous Knockomagh Hill, at Lough Hyne. But walking further along this road I passed some lovely green fields, very green, like you only get them in Ireland, typical with Gorse, Hawthorn, and Blackthorn growing in the hedgerows. And today the sky was blue, dotted with woolly white clouds, what a lovely contrast.

Above – Looking back towards our houses, with hawthorn hedging and wetland in front, and then the walk goes on past Liss Ard Estate where I found lots of native trees growing, their buds bursting in the warming spring sun, and birds singing their hearts out for sheer delight.
Also along my walk, and I love to see this, were stone walls, beautifully built from local stone, purple mudstone, shale and I even saw some quartz here and there. These are often grown full of little ferns, mosses, and other wild plants, this one in the photo must have been built fairly recently though.

And in people’s gardens, a magnificent Camelia bush in full bloom!
I also came across this beautiful blue door, the colour of it dazzled me!
Last, but not least, this little ladybird was sunny itself, I’m happy to say that I’ve seen at least a dozen over the last few days.
I have marked out at least seven walks in the vicinity of Skibbereen town, I’m doing this for my health, both body and mind. This particular walk took me 50 minutes and all round it was about 4km in distance. When we used to spend our winters on the island of Gozo I used to walk everywhere, exploring the whole island and all it’s little villages, and it was such a delight. I have missed this very much in the past six months and so I decided to make the best of it by mapping out some do-able walks around here and exploring nature or architecture or whatever I can find to interest me, and reading up on it all. The beautiful sunshine of the past few days has helped greatly to encourage me and inspire me, and off to a good start it has been. I am truly grateful.

THE GARDEN IS AWAKENING

I guess it is – or rather – the gardener is awakening! Because a good crop of herbs and vegetables was growing all winter long in our little garden. But today I started getting organized because there is lots to do, and I cannot wait to get going!

Vegetables in abundance – overwintering colourful Chard, Rosemary, Kale and Celery.
The Lavender is in good condition after the winter, and the Rosemary bush is getting larger by the day.

Much of my space is still taken up by winter vegetables but some of the beds are ready, one for potatoes, and another one for flowers, this season the emphasis is going to be on food for the insects, that is so important today.

This book I took out of the library, lots of information on what to grow to help butterflies survive, great for ideas.

So yes there is lots going on even as early in spring as right now. We have enough food coming from the garden, and that helped me make the decision to grow a lot more flowers seeing that insect population is under such threat. But personally I am also very happy with this decision because I am very fond of flowers.

Dear friends, followers, and readers of my blog, I would like to thank you for all your encouragement. I’m coming up to 800 followers now and I treasure everyone of you.

RIVER LEE FLOWING THROUGH CORK

I was very lucky today because I seldom go to Cork city these days, it so happened that for the past few days I was there, unfortunately most of that time was spent with Ian in hospital, but while on the way back from parking the car in the multi-story carpark I took these snaps today. Most importantly Ian was seen to and is doing fine, and we are home again tonight. But as you can see for yourselves Cork, which is the largest city in County Cork, and to us the nearest city, an eighty minutes drive on a good day (without roadwork stops), it is above all a beautiful and charming city. Population is only about 417,211 souls. Cork was originally a Viking trade settlement around the year 915 and is now a thriving and very popular place to shop and visit.
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The river flowing through Cork, the river Lee, flows from a lake in Gougane Barra in the Shehy mountains on the Western border of county Cork, it winds its way down other lakes and eventually reaches Cork city where it splits into two, creating an island on which the centre of the city is built.

A lot more could be told about this lovely river but I will carry on and show you today’s photos of the views I enjoyed so much and which I hope you will enjoy too.
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Another iron bridge, this time it is just a narrow foot bridge, very much in use!

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Here are some interesting and beautiful gables along the streets near the Lee river, I could not resist taking some photos of these too. Just love that gate!

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NATURE TRAIL – BALLYDEHOB

Ballydehob is a small and very charming village on the coast of West Cork, and along the Wild Atlantic route. It was once a thriving mining town, now-a-days it is still overlooked by Mount Gabriel which is where copper was mined back then. Its beauty is superb, and last Saturday we decided to go on the Nature Trail which leads around and over the old railway bridge which leads over one of Ballydehob’s two rivers, the Bawnakeane and Rathravane, but I am not sure which of the two it is! We took along one of my granddaughters, she is a real nature child and took delight in drawing pictures of some of the scenery in her note-book. Ian was well able for this walk and enjoyed it too. I took note of all the new growth along the way, there were several flowers open, Lesser Celandine, Daisies, and Herb Robert were among them. I also noticed young leaves of the March Violet, a wild Geranium, and quite a few very pretty ferns.  The walk along the trail is easy for anyone and the views are magnificent.  We finished our walk in the village with coffee and delicious cake at a delightful eatery called Budd’s.
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THE RAILWAY BRIDGE OVER THE RIVER ILEN

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This now unused railway bridge runs over the river Ilen in the small town of Skibbereen, West Cork, in Ireland.  This market town used to have a rail connection between it and the large city to the East, Cork.  The railway extended also to Ballydehob and Schull, and to Baltimore.  I have heard it said that in days gone by sugar beet was cultivated around Baltimore, a seaside place close to Skibbereen, and that daily the sugar beet would be transported by train all the way to the factory in Mallow, a town which lies much further inland.

Sadly the railway is no more, neither is the sugar beet production.  The old bridge stands to this day and is part of the West Cork Hotel.  I happened to pass there today and immediately saw that the reflection of the bridge was perfect on the water, so took some photos with my phone and played around a bit with editing.  I wanted the bridge in black and white, but I found that in colour – especially boosted a bit, the result was fine too.

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Skibbereen is a small town in the South-West of Ireland, I plan to explore it more in future and also to learn more about its history.  It has many interesting corners, and lately I am discovering new walks.   Time to start a little exploration!